ONEONTA – Celeste Brown Thomas, 61, retired New York Times staff editor who grew up in Oneonta, passed away June 20, 2020, in Rochester of complications from uterine serous cancer.
She had been treated for the disease, a rare and aggressive cancer, at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and Rochester since May 2017. She died surrounded by family, after hospice care at home for several weeks.
She was born Nov. 25, 1958, in Sayre, Pa., the eldest of two children of Foster Lloyd Brown, a SUNY Oneonta statistics professor, and Barbara Feather Brown, a music teacher. After attending Bugbee School and Oneonta High School, she graduated with a bachelor’s in English from SUNY New Paltz and later a master’s in English from New York University.
She was a devoted mom and loving sibling. Optimistic and resilient by nature, she loved ballroom dancing, travel, interior design, history, nature, and spending time with family and friends. She enjoyed “CBS Sunday Morning,” NPR’s “Writer’s Almanac,” and outdoor cafes.
She moved to Manhattan in 1984 and enjoyed an urban lifestyle for the next 20-some years. She was a founding editor of Premiere magazine and also 7 Days magazine, which won a national magazine award.
In her spare time, she competed in national ballroom dance competitions. She met her future husband, Anthony Thomas, a Fred Astaire Dance Studio manager, in 1995. The two continued to compete together, married in 1996, and welcomed their son Charles “Chase” in 1997.
She was hired by the New York Times in 1990. Before that she had been a reporter at the Sun-Journal in New Bern, N.C., where she broke an investigative story about hospital fraud that earned the paper a national Associated Press Managing Editor’s Service award. She also worked for the Jacksonville Journal in Florida, where she received several state AP awards. She was then editor of the sister papers The Huguenot Herald and The Highland Herald of New Paltz, New York, where the paper also received multiple AP Awards. Retiring to Oneonta, she worked for a time with the Hometown Oneonta and The Freeman’s Journal.
Survivors include her son, Charles “Chase”; her brother Wendell (Craig); her uncle David (Jean); cousins Laurie, Ahmad, Brent (Rosie), Tanya (Stuart), Keevin, Rolanda, Jeananne (Bob); step siblings Manny, Ginny, Paula, Rebecca; and step mother Rita.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Aunt Marie, Uncle Dennie (Marion), and Aunt Beth.
A celebration of life will be held at a later date in Oneonta, with arrangements handled by Lewis, Hurley & Pietrobono Funeral Home.
Donations may be made in her name to the Committee to Protect Journalists.